BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — New video chat kiosks at the Wood County Jail are helping inmates stay in contact with their family.
With in-person visits still completely restricted, inmates say that having the kiosks during a pandemic has given them the chance to see their families face-to-face more than ever before.
"I have a son and one on the way and a fiancé," said Stephen Wells, an inmate at the jail.
Wells has been in custody for over a month. He has about one more to go until he's able to get back home to his family.
"It's difficult, especially with the coronavirus going on, not being able to see them or have them come up here."
In-person visits haven't resumed since the pandemic started. But Wells has still managed to see his family face-to-face at least once a week thanks to the new video chat system.
"Basically the inmates' loved ones can purchase time on the kiosk and for anybody familiar with technology, it's basically like a FaceTime," Cpt. Rebecca McMonigal explained.
The Wood County Sheriff's Office started looking into video visitations before the pandemic. Now their new technology is adding an extra level of safety for families, inmates and guards.
"They can stay in the security of their own home so they don't have to leave their house and our inmates don't have to leave the dorm, which helps keep everybody contained in one area."
Wells even says the virtual visits are encouraging him to get his life back on track.
"When I seen them, it helped my time get a little better and helped me get through everything," he said.
Video calls from the lobby of the jail are free, but there is a fee for at-home calls.
The cost of the technology is being paid for by the families paying to make the calls.